Product Review: 2011 Press Pass Football


I am actually getting a bit of a breather in my day job (tax season is almost over!), so I figured we should keep this gravy train of 2011 product reviews rolling. The next stop on our tour de force is 2011 Press Pass Football. Another pre-draft product. Another unlicensed producer. There’s just something about this that makes me angry at Upper Deck… Side bar comments notwithstanding, let’s jump to the review:

2011 Press Pass Football box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes (supposely) come with 28 4-card packs for a total of 112 cards (although I pulled much closer to a 5-cards-per-pack ratio). I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87, which translates into a moderate $0.78/card ratio. This seems to be about the norm for pre-draft sets. Personally, I feel that’s a bit high for unlicensed cards, but the market is what it is. Will my box prove to be worth its pricetag? Let’s find out…

2011 Press Pass Football packs
As in the past, 2011 Press Pass features a multi-pack design

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 122 (20 duplicates)
   Base: 67 (14 duplicates)
   Trophy Club: 6 (0 duplicates)
   National Leaders: 23 (6 duplicates)
   Banner Season: 15 (0 duplicates)
   Graduating Class: 9 (0 duplicates)
   Power Picks (short prints): 2 (0 duplicates)
   Silver (#/299): 2
   Gold (#/100): 1
   Face to Face: 7
   Class of 2011: 4
   Bronze Autos: 2
   Silver Autos (#/199): 2
   Showbound Power Pick (#/25): 1

2011 Press Pass Football2011 Press Pass Football
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: With five subsets (six if you include the Power Pick short prints), there is not a lot of time for jibber-jabber, so let’s cut to the chase with these base cards. First up is what I’m calling the base base. These cards…aren’t stellar. In fact, they’re mediocre at best. My attention isn’t sure if it’s being drawn to the player photo or the gigantic jersey number. A card front should never have a confused focus. I could like the scoreboard design theme, but it’s just not doing it for me. The biggest turn off is the player name. For some reason, on a card with nearly all right-angles, the player name suddenly drops a curvy, scripty bomb and is oddly backlit. Strickly from a design standpoint, it’s actually a nice effect, but the dark letters on a dark background with a light glow just isn’t doing it for me. Oddly enough, the exact same letters are incredibly bright on the card back. And not to nit-pick, but I’ve never been a fan of the faux computer font, ticker type. Several sets have done this in the past (the first that comes to mind is 2000 Topps), but I’m just not a fan. Next was the Trophy Club. I really like this concept, but I’m glad there isn’t a whole set of it. Perhaps if the plaque was bigger and there was less wood it would be more attractive, but it really is pretty nicely done. The next subset was my favorite, National Leaders. I realize it’s not the most original idea, but for some reason, I really like images that pull together to look like notebooks or, in this case, clipboards. It’s probably because that was the concept of one of my first desktop publishing projects. So on a purely personal level, this works. My only comment would be that it would be nice to see different play diagrams behind the photos on each card. Next up is Banner Season. This subset was included in last year’s set as well, and honestly, it’s taken a step back rather than forward. Without taking a lot of time and space to figure out why, I’m just not feeling it. Unfortunately for the set, it only gets worse with the Graduating Class subset. I rarely like multi-player cards, especially if they’re not from the same team, and the lackluster design of these cards didn’t help. It just felt like a way to round a 91-card set up to a 100-card set. Lastly, the set does finish off strong with the Power Pick short prints. These cards just had that extra something to set them apart and were a nice addition to the checklist. Too bad they are short printed!

2nd Down, Inserts: While I was first busted this box, I thought this portion of my review would be a monstrosity. Then I figured out that a lot of what I thought were inserts, were actually subsets of main base set. The base parallels weren’t bad, and I appreciate that there were only two levels, but I wasn’t wildly impressed. I guess I like parallels that are simple yet distinct enough to easily tell the difference even on a substandard scan. The only two real “inserts” (besides the hits) were the Face to Face and Class of 2011 cards. The Face to Face cards have a nice feel to them. The design elements have that raw look that just conjures up a sense a conflict, which ties nicely to the theme. My problem with these cards? You guessed it. Multiple players. That is hedged a bit when you feature fierce rivalries, of which TCU and Wisconsin are not. At least there is a nice Rose Bowl tie-in for these two guys. The Class of 2011 inserts are very nice in person. They almost have a holographic look about them that is not captured well on my scanner. Lastly, the hits. Each box (on average) carries 5 autograph cards. What is the first thing you notice about the autograph cards in the scans above? If you answered, “they’re all on-card!” you are on the same wave length as me. As far as I know, all Press Pass autographs are inserted and are on-card. That’s quite a nice touch from a minor company (even though they’ve been around for a while). The raw design of the cards isn’t stellar, but there is also plenty of room for the player to sign. Unfortunately, there is a rapidly growing trend for even C-list athletes to just scribble their first initial and then a bit of a squiggle, rather than taking the time and effort to actually sign their names. That being said, the autograph space seems to rarely be fully utilized, but some blank space is better than cramming larger autos on stickers.

3rd Down, Collation: My first reaction was that there were way too many duplicates. Then, as I actually sorted through them, I realized there really weren’t THAT many, and I did pull the entire base set, sans Power Pick short prints. That being said, I still do not like duplicates and I’d rather have more inserts or parallels than duplicates. But if you’re going to give me the entire base set in just one hobby box, I’ll be willing to let you slide a bit more than I otherwise would. I also pulled the stated odds for autographs (5 per box), but did not pull any jersey cards. Interestingly enough, Press Pass seems to be the only company that makes jersey cards significantly rarer than autographs (of the companies that produce both). I’m obviously not complaining about that; I’m just making an observation. So overall, the collation was actually pretty darn good and hopefully my box was a good indicator for the entire production run.

4th Down, Overall Value: Despite the greatest efforts possible, an unlicensed set will always be just an unlicensed set. Even licensed college products get the nod over completely unlicensed sets, which is what Press Pass used to be. Unfortunately, Press Pass is just another victim of UD’s blatant disregard for sensible business practices and healthy hobby competition. One very strong case for this product is the on-card autographs. Player collectors in particular seem to be more focused on getting as many cards of their targets as possible, and are less concerned with worrying about for how much their collection should be insured. These pre-draft sets don’t become completely worthless once the first NFL licensed sets are released, but they definitely take a big hit. Ultimately, value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. YOU decide what is worth its weight in cardstock. Not me. Not the market as a whole. Certainly not some corporate suit. Just you.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL 2011 Press Pass had some good moves and took it right down to the goal line, but just couldn’t find paydirt, or even light up the scoreboard its base cards pretend to be. The on-card autographs and the flashy inserts are great highlights for this set, but ultimately the lackluster base card design and the piece-meal base checklist (5-6 subsets depending on whether or not you count the short prints) spelled doom for this product as a whole. In its first full year of not having a CLC license, Press Pass needed to come out with its creative guns blazing and its consumer appeal at an all-time high. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it mustered the energy. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad product and trust me, I’ve review far worse products in this blog’s short history. It just fell short on my personal wow-factor.

NEXT UP: 2011 SAGE Hit High Series


Heisman Highlight: Gary Beban


Heisman Highlight

Name: Gary Beban
Position: Quarterback
College: UCLA Bruins
Class: Senior
Winning Year: 1967 – 33rd Award
Official Heisman Profile: Click Here

Interesting Notes: Beban was a key part of a UCLA squad that won 23 games in three years while he was at the helm…won a tight three-horse race in which O.J. Simpson had the second highest second-place finish of all time and LeRoy Keyes had the highest third-place finish in Heisman voting history…had a short professional career with the Redskins…has been a very successful real estate manager with CB Commercial…was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1988.

2009 Press Pass Legends #91

Featured Card: 2009 Press Pass Legends #91. As a success college player without much of a professional playing career of which to speak, we look to a very recent legends set for a card of Beban. Sets like this are interesting in that it is a newer set with (supposedly) higher quality controls yet still features Beban in his college uni from over 40 years ago. Copies of this card go for just a few dollars on eBay. There is also an autographed version that generally sells for less than $20.

NOTE: You can find all of my Heisman Highlight Features by clicking the post banner above.

Heisman Highlight: Joe Bellino


Heisman Highlight

Name: Joe Bellino
Position: Back
College: Navy Midshipmen
Class: Senior
Winning Year: 1960 – 26th Award
Official Heisman Profile: Click Here

Interesting Notes: Bellino was a multi-threat weapon and the driving force behind the 9-1 Army team in 1960, scoring 18 touchdowns and accounting for over half of all offensive yards gained by the Midshipmen…was drafted by the AFL Boston Patriots and played for three seasons before being drafted by the NFL Cincinnati Bengals…retired from football to avoid moving his family to Ohio…served over 28 years in the U.S. Navy and rose to the rank of Captain…was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1977.

2007 Press Pass Legends Auto #8

Featured Card: 2007 Press Pass Legends Auto #8. Without a notable professional football career, Bellino was never featured on an official rookie card. For an addition to your Heisman Trophy winner collection, you can consider modern alternatives like this autographed card from 2007. Bellino’s autos usually sell in the $20-$30 range while base cards from legends-themed sets generally sell for less than $5.

NOTE: You can find all of my Heisman Highlight Features by clicking the post banner above.

Product Review: 2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition


As the final pre-draft product of the year, 2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition gives player collectors and prospectors one last chance to collect their favorite young players before NFL team collectors enter the game. This mid-level product will feel different for Press Pass fans of the past as the new NCAA exclusive partnership with Upper Deck has once again prevented a solid product from featuring college team logos.

2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $122.54 shipped, which translates into a $1.23/card ratio. That means this certainly isn’t your bottom-end set, but I wouldn’t classify it as “high-end” either. The box promises (on average) 7 on-card autographs per box and 3 memorabilia cards.

2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition Packs
Featuring a two-design pack format

The Breakdown:
Base Cards (#1-50): 58 – 100.0%
   1x: 42
   2x: 8
Inserts: 35 (10 Face to Face; 20 Headliners; 5 Class of 2010)
Jersey Cards: 3 (2 Game Day Gear; 1 Game Day Gear Parallel #/99)
Autographs: 7 (4 Sideline Signatures; 2 Sideline Signatures Ruby #/150; 1 Sideline Signatures Ruby Red Ink Variant)

2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: I really like this base set. The cards have a classy and timeless design. I also particularly appreciate the feel of the cards. They are printed on a heavier card stock and have a semi-gloss finish to them. It’s not the slippery high-gloss finish of many modern sets and it’s not a very matte and bland finish from sets that are trying too hard to seem retro. The overall design could be enhanced with the use of logos, but that is not the design team’s fault.

2nd Down, Inserts: The Class of 2010 inserts are very well designed and are attractive, but I do question whether it’s necessary as all of the subjects are in the 2010 rookie class. I didn’t look closely at the insert checklist; perhaps all of the guys in this insert set were seniors? I am not a big fan of the Headliners insert. It is a good idea, but it would have been much better if they had used images of actual headlines, especially of the corresponding school’s student paper. The Face 2 Face inserts outright confused me. They look good, but how did they decide who to include and pair up? I didn’t realize the Illinois/Minnesota game was a “matchup of the year”. I’m not incredibly infatuated with jersey cards, but these Game Day Gear cards are designed well, and having a numbered parallel is nice. By far the best (and most important to many collectors) inserts were the autographed cards. Rather than just throw stickers on base cards, these are all on-card and the design incorporates the auto very well. Simply put, they are just very good looking cards. The different parallels and red ink/nickname variants add another level of collectibility for fans.

3rd Down, Collation: I have no complaints here. The base set is only 50 cards, but I was pleased that I pulled all 50. I did have 8 duplicates, but that is hard to avoid when the entire base set is in the box you bust. I also pulled a nice spread of the various insert cards and pulled the stated averages for the jersey and autographed cards. Obviously pulling extra “hits” would be nice, but again, I can’t complain about collation for this box. Hopefully the entire run was packaged this well.

4th Down, Overall Value: This is so tricky for these pre-draft products. You will have collectors who loathe non-licensed products. You will have collectors who lose all interest once the first post-draft cards are produced. And then you’ll have the collectors who are just looking to get their hands on great looking cards of their favorite players and teams (college or pro). At $1.23 per card, it’s really hard to say you could get a return on your “investment” (if you view your boxes as investments…which they are NOT). If you collect for the sake of collecting, this is a great product for the price. If you are super concerned about your bottom line and resale or book value, this probably isn’t the product for you.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN (MISSED PAT) If you haven’t noticed, I liked this set. There were very few things that bothered me with this box break. Each of the categories above is important to me, and really only the “overall value” was a hit or miss prospect. The base design and feel, the insert design (if not necessarily the concept), and the collation were pretty much spot on in my opinion. The reason 2010 Press Pass Portrait Edition wasn’t able to tack on the PAT? No logos. I know it isn’t their fault the NCAA decided to award UD an exclusive contract, but it is what it is. Even if they were able to rock the collegiate logos of the past, I would celebrate this as a retro-spective product rather than complain about a lack of NFL logos. But alas, neither was meant to be. Overall though, this is a good product.

NEXT UP: 2010 Panini Prestige

Product Review: 2010 Press Pass Football


Offering some direct competition to SAGE Collectibles, Press Pass has also released its first product for the 2010 calendar. While generally the same concept, Press Pass is able to offer jersey cards and all things Tim Tebow, as he signed an exclusive contract with them for draft-themed products (while SAGE landed a Colt McCoy autograph exclusive).

2010 Press Pass Football box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 28 4-card packs for a total of 112 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $92.95 shipped, which translates into a $0.83/card ratio. I would prefer to see a lower price-per-card average for an undrafted rookies product, but given a recent development in the football market, these cards may be more valuable than I originally thought. The box promises (on average) 5 autograph cards per box and a random sampling of various parallels and inserts (including “rare” jersey cards).

2010 Press Pass Football Packs
Featuring a two-design pack format

The Breakdown:
Base Cards (#1-105*): 94 – 69.5%
   1x: 52
   2x: 17
   3x: 2
   Short Prints: 2
Parallels: 5 (4 Reflectors #/500; 1 Proof Edition #/100)
Inserts: 8 (7 Banner Season; 1 Gridiron Gamers (Jersey) #/99)
Autographs: 4 (2 Press Pass Signings; 1 Press Pass Signings Gold #/85; 1 Power Pick Auto #250)
* Base cards #101-105 are short printed Power Pick cards

2010 Press Pass Football2010 Press Pass Football
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: This is an interesting set. When I look at the scans of multiple cards together above, the design looks loud with lots of random lines and shapes. But on an individual card basis, the same basis I was on when opening the packs and then flipping through the stack afterwards, the cards are nice. I remember when I hated getting Press Pass cards in the mid-90s because they felt and looked excessively cheap. This is actually a really nice looking set. One thing I would change? Grab different photos for the card backs. I will also reiterate something I said about SAGE Hit. I don’t care for the subsets in a 100-card base set. Give me more individuals than recycling the big names. Maybe a few more Nittany Lions?

2nd Down, Inserts: I will admit, when looking at preview images, I hated the autograph cards. I thought they just looked “off” for a lack of more descriptive adjectives. But when I saw them first-hand, I did a 180 in opinion. The autos are actually really nice and I LOVE that they are on-card. The Banner Season was a good idea, but using a team color scheme didn’t work in all cases, especially teams with navy blue or black. Those just look very dark and drab. The Tebow above and the CJ Spiller I pulled are quite stunning though with that bright orange over the faded photo. I liked the parallels as well. I’m not a fan of serial numbering for serial numbering’s sake, but the cards look great. They almost have a refractor aurora about them. I am undecided on the jersey card insert. I know that is Press Pass’s thing, but it is overdone at this point, especially to go to the extent to say they are more rare and valuable than the autographed cards. Plus, due to its thicker size, I only pulled 111 cards…and only 4 of the “guaranteed” 5 autographs. Let’s just say I would much rather have had another non-double base card and auto than this jersey card.

3rd Down, Collation: Meh. With 112 cards per box and a 100-card base set (sans short prints), I didn’t expect to pull the entire base set, but having 21 duplicates was a bit much for me to swallow. I also noticed that I pulled some of those duplicates in consecutive packs, would be really irritating if I had only bought a few packs and still had doubles. I also mentioned the fact that I was shorted one card (an autograph at that) for the sake of including a jersey card. If you are going to take a card out of a pack to include the jersey card, don’t take away an auto. I know every product says that stated odds are indicative of the entire print run and not individual packs, boxes, or cases, but I will say this is the only box I’ve ever busted that did not have the stated inserts, especially for autographs.

4th Down, Overall Value: It depends. Press Pass has been around for a while, so its a brand people recognize and appreciate, especially in the college market. However, there’s always the risk that most of the checklist will wind up being NFL busts. Also, the secondary market value of any draft-themed set will plummet once sets featuring the rookies in their new unis are released. If you are a collector, it’s a great set. If you are a prospector, you may want to pass.

RED ZONE RESULTS: DEFENSIVE PENALTY, FIRST AND GOAL FROM THE 2 I probably hand out this result more than I should, but it seems to work in this case. I see a lot of potential in the product and the base cards, autographs, and parallels look fantastic. On the other hand, the collation (duplicates without obtaining the entire base set) and the over-use of subsets kept 2010 Press Pass from getting on the board. Given another four downs (another box break or two) it is possible it could punch it across the goal line or at least convert a field goal attempt. A First and Goal from the 2 is a good place to be…unless time has already expired.

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 SAGE Autograph